Links & Contents I Liked 113

Hi all,
This week is a more essential and shorter link review as I am getting ready for my trip to South Africa.
Great food for thought from MSF, WhyDev, on funding the revolution, aid in Kenya & 'studying up' in design anthropology!


New from aidnography
Aidnography in Stellenbosch & Cape Town
I will be part of our ComDev/Glocal Classroom team that is going to travel to South Africa for a conference on ICT and education organized by Stellenbosch University as well as a seminar with colleagues in Cape Town.
Two exciting and different events and you are most welcome to join us online or in person!

Opinion and Debate: Either… Or - Building resilience is still not compatible with humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid does not offer a transformative agenda; it is a way of standing in solidarity with people in crisis as opposed to people in the West (still) trying to help ‘them’ bounce back.
When I told colleagues and friends in Beirut that I was engaged in a debate about the concept of resilience I was mocked for taking seriously anyone living in Europe and proclaiming to be able to build the resilience of people living in, for example, Lebanon or Syria.
It is as absurd as it is patronising. And it is another reason why the resilience agenda is incompatible with emergency humanitarian action.
In some ways, this is almost a textbook case study of how development blogging should be done: MSF engaging in an important and critical debate that is difficult and complex, but is discussed openly on their blog. Well worth the read!

Volunteering to teach English is the new volunteering in an orphanage
There is a shortage of trained teachers in rural, deprived areas of countries like Ghana and Cambodia, and volunteer English teachers from abroad are not a solution, either stop-gap or long-term. Children deserve, and have the right to, better education and better teachers.
So, why can I spend five minutes in an online application, list my English proficiency, ethnicity and age, and be considered fit to teach English to Ghanaian primary and secondary school children?
If you want to teach, teach. If you want to travel, travel. Don’t do both. Don’t mix business with pleasure.
Word, Brendan! One of those 'just don't do it' issues in development.

If the revolution will not be funded, what can we do?
I have seen non-profit leaders and activists put their own organization first – even if it means putting a fellow non-profit down, refusing to share resources or knowledge, criticizing similar organizations, or sabotaging another group’s ability to get funding. Not only does competition for scarce resources prevent collaboration and movement building, but it actively encourages tearing down fellow activists to further one’s own cause.
Akhila Kolisetty does an excellent job reviewing key aspects of the current situation/stalemate of how 'civil society' has a difficult task to achieve social change and social justice. One aspect I would include is the early criminalization and surveillance of radical leaders and their organizations from MLK to Snowden which makes it difficult to fund radical movements. So speaking out against the surveillance state is one very small step in making sure that radical voices and organizations can access mainstream funding, organizations or other aspects of mainstream discourses.

Binyavanga Wainaina on aid, power and the politics of development in Africa – video
The Kenyan writer best known for his celebrated Granta essay – How to write about Africa – talks to Eliza Anyangwe about how the notion of 'development' and other words incubated in the west fail to capture the reality of Africa. 'The obsession with the essay has become very interesting because it provokes liberal guilt: what can we do better, but never asks how can we restructure power arrangements, which is what Africa needs,' says Wainaina.
He goes on to talk about the portrayal of Africa as 'diabolically corrupt' and, using Kenya as an example, explains how those stereotypes feed the development industry and everything it does.
Binyawanga Wainaina fundamental critique of Western notions of 'development' merits a broader debate. But I wonder how representative examples along the lines of a 17-year old UK high school graduate teaching Kenyans about the use of condoms really are. Given that the 'development industry' employs many bright, motivated local staff, I wonder whether it is fair simply to point the finger to Western donors. As a growing industry, Kenyans are happy to join the aid industry-even if it is 'just' for a well paid job in a multicultural environment. Is it really that much better/sustainable etc. if a multinational company hires local staff for their, say, marketing departments as opposed an international NGO hiring, say, community mobilizers on a health issue? Development needs to be scrutinized-but it has changed a lot and there is much more local involvement/ownership etc. than in the bad old days...

Are aid workers more ‘maladjusted’ than others?
So it does seem fair to suggest that rather than being less well-adjusted than the general population, we aid workers are equally maladjusted, but have chosen a line of work that makes it harder to mask or ignore our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
If that’s true, the relevant question becomes: how do we maximise the way the “maladjustments” each of us brings to aid work make us particularly suited for it, while minimising the negative consequences?
As stressful as (humanitarian) aid work can be and as resilient as those working in the industry should be(come), Amanda Scothern's post made me wonder whether there is such a thing as 'over reflection', or, maybe more precisely, a risk of making aid work appear more special than many other stressful jobs/professions (who doesn't have a stressful job these days?!). Or maybe we need to talk ,ore about the broader political economy in the post-industrial, knowledge- and prestige-based economy?!

Studying Up: The Ethnography of Technologists
Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.
Nick Seaver on 'studying up' in design and technology anthropology. One of the best open access articles on the frontiers of ethnography I have come across in a while. Highly recommended!


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